Crash and Burn
by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin
Book 1 of Moreno & Hart
Average Rating: 2.75 Stars
Crash and Burn is a book about two ex-police turned private investigators, Scarlet Moreno and Krista Hart. The backstory from the prologue gives us the events of three years ago when Scarlet is almost killed on a mission--somehow, she surmised that someone had set her up for dead, and in the meantime, there was no back up to come bail her out. Rookie cop Krista is the only other officer willing to jump into the chaos to save Scarlet.
Gunfire ensues and we skip ahead to three years into the present when Scarlet and Krista have both left the LAPD to become private investigators in Newport. The events of three years prior had bonded the two women, turning them from a senior and rookie cop partnership into best friends, practically like sisters. At the present moment in this book, the two are struggling to make ends meet by taking every divorce and marital battle case they can get their hands on just to build a client base.
The book is formatted like an anthology, based around these two main characters where Crash is Scarlet Moreno's story, written by Allison Brennan, and Burn is Krista Hart's story, written by Laura Griffin.
To be totally honest, I picked up this book mainly because I'm a fan of Laura Griffin's Tracers series. I have read something by Allison Brennan before, but couldn't really get into it, and was hoping that this second chance would fare better, especially with only half the book to get through before getting to Laura Griffin's part.
by Allison Brennan
This first part of the book is very abrupt and bite-sized, but still manages to run two story tangents within this little bit.
Scarlet chances upon a traffic accident, which ends up landing her in the middle of some domestic dispute involving two rich young adolescents, one of whom might be a bit mentally unstable. They both contact her to help them with something to do with the other, and Scarlet questions why and how she got herself into this situation when things start getting out of control--apparently between these two clients, there is stalking, death threats, and some crazy-crazy involved.
Meanwhile, she also manages to insert herself into a murder investigation involving a group of college kids. The chaos begins after an attempted date rape drugging is thwarted by Scarlet's friend, Isaac, who is the bartender of Diego's, a local bar--Scarlet lives in the little hovel over the establishment.
That night after the little college group leaves, a gunshot is fired, waking Scarlet, and she soon finds one young man dead, one critically injured, and one of the girls who'd been at the bar earlier disoriented, drugged, and a possible rape victim. The incident soon escalates when another girl is found in critical condition, dropped off at a hospital, with an overdose of the new designer date rape drug in her system--her boyfriend is dead in his own home with a knife in his back, and the other college kids who'd been at Diego's in the same group are missing.
The case is being investigated by Alex Bishop, a new detective in Newport, who seems to have gotten the wrong impression of Scarlet, either based on hearsay or something, because he is hostile towards her the moment they meet.
Again, this particular portion of Crash and Burn was quite short and abrupt. While the investigation was done decently, the ending felt kind of like it was quite sudden. I'm not really complaining, since with only a little less than two hundred pages to present Scarlet's part of the story, it was actually quite detailed and well-written.
In fact, I'm kind of surprised that Brennan was able to include two separate story lines in this bite-sized piece, and am kind of impressed that both had quite well-rounded conclusions following a well-outlined story.
The only complaint I have is that I would have liked to see more of the story on Bishop's side of things, and that this first part of the book could have been a little bit longer. Instead, it felt incomplete and unsatisfying, even with the well-rounded ending of both cases. We get little chance to get to know all the major players in this story, especially Detective Bishop, even though we are told quite a bit of backstory about Scarlet.
For instance, I would have liked to know why Bishop was so hostile towards Scarlet in the beginning. What did he know about her that had him calling her a "disgraced cop" without preamble? His antagonism against her is much more extreme than even I would have expected towards a private investigator, even knowing that, as a rule, law enforcement officers typically don't care for P.I.s. And then what changes his mind later on? And why did he bring up Scarlet's brother? I didn't see what that had to do with anything.
There are a lot of unanswered questions.
And on top of that, the romance kind of happened as a snap action--one moment Bishop is still glaring at Scarlet, the next moment he's kissing her? Is this just part of the story because we expect romance? Because it felt out of place.
There was just so much more that could have been covered had this been a full length novel instead, really.
But it was still quite enjoyable nonetheless, and I'm reconsidering my impression of Brennan's work.
Crash receives a fairly meh 3.5 Stars. But only because I can feel that it has a lot of potential to lead into a good story.
by Laura Griffin
Burn was... forgettable. Truth be told, I'm a little disappointed.
Amidst working a marital cheating case wherein the husband confronts her with homicidal tendencies, Krista Hard finds herself drawn into a missing persons case where said missing person's life may be in jeopardy. An infamous criminal defense attorney offers her a job to locate one of his witnesses who has dropped off the face of the planet--the trial is coming up soon and he needs this girl to testify. But as Krista investigates the disappearance of Lily Daniels, she soon realizes that there is something more going on with Lily.
Meanwhile, Krista also learns that she wasn't the only private investigator hired to locate Lily Daniels. It's a dog-eat-dog world in a career as a P.I., and Krista is again reminded of just how hard things can get when people like defense attorney Drake Walker and rival P.I. R.J. Flynn do what they can to keep her out of the game.
There was a lot of potential to this short section of Crash and Burn if only because it's an exciting premise, and because it's written by Laura Griffin and I'm a big fan. As is with most Laura Griffin books, Burn doesn't hold back anything, jumping straight into the action. We even get private investigator politics, crossed with pissing contests, and gender inequality issues.
So much could have been covered just with those little factors and side tangents.
But unfortunately, the execution of the rest of the story kind of felt monotonous and unoriginal. Burn gave me a sense of "been there, done that," and I can't help but to think that it could have been developed a bit better if it had been a full-length novel, just like Crash. Instead, we get a bite-sized teaser of what might be forthcoming in the rest of the series as the authors try their best to introduce these two wonderfully crafted main characters.
Nonetheless, this novella-sized half of a book was written well.
The romance between R.J. and Krista had all the makings of a potentially likable "Bickering Couple Romance," between their rivalry. But there were moments when R.J. went a little overboard on the teasing and the butting in--he reminds me of an elementary school boy who likes the tough girl on the playground, but shows his affection by pulling her pig tails and throwing staples in her hair, unapologetically. Or taking her glue and crayons and refusing to return them, only to use them for his own means. Or taking her project ideas and claiming them for his own.
Really, he's just that popular and cool asshole in school whom all the girls tend to fall for anyway.
And Krista is the tough girl who rises to the teasing, which just makes the boy want to tease her some more.
In a way, it could have been a cute romance until the ending came around and did something that I found a little bit distasteful. In fact, I plain did not like the way R.J. decided to resolve their romantic conflict, as well as the issue concerning Krista's involvement in the missing witness case. It pissed me off, and days later, it still pisses me off.
This book would have been a higher rating if not for that ending.
Meanwhile, the rest of the story was kind of exciting, but at the same time, entirely forgettable. I still like that Krista is shown as capable and good investigator, if a little hot-headed and reckless. I don't like that there were still so many loose ends, and that, like the first story by Allison Brennan, Griffin tries to cram too much material into the short, novella-length story.
For instance: How does the little cheating husband with homicidal tendencies side-tangent resolve itself? Did I miss it somehow? It's a small tangent and I kind of forgot about it for a while, but it's still there and feels like a very big loose end.
Burn receives an even more 'meh' 2.5 Stars. To be honest, I might have expected too much and felt the sting of disappointment when things didn't turn out the way I wanted it to turn out. That's probably my fault.
One of the things I DID appreciate about Crash and Burn was how realistic it was in portraying the life of a private investigator. Not that I know what the life of a private investigator entails. Granted, it was still chalk full of excitement, but our authors DO take pains to emphasize how not-so-glamorous being a P.I. really is. Moreno & Hart have spent the past two years since leaving the police force trying to build a client base and a reputation, but even as they've managed to sustain a living with their agency, they admit that the majority of their cases involve jilted spouses, divorce cases, and the like. The majority of their time is spent waiting for a cheating husband or wife to slip up so that they can take that money-making photo to show their clients.
There's a lot of waiting involved for these two women: waiting for a picture to be taken, waiting for their target to do what they need to do, waiting for a client to hire them...
And then there are more private investigators out there just waiting to pick up that first exciting case that attorneys would be willing to hand them.
While I don't like how things end up for Krista in Burn--where she does almost all the work, but gets no credit for it; where she just knows that she's going to get screwed over on her pay by a hotshot client she's not willing to antagonize--it's something that DOES happen in real life, whether you're a private investigator or not.
I'm hoping we'll see more action and less bite-sized snippets in the next few installments of Moreno & Hart. While this book was pretty enjoyable, neither of the two stories included in it felt like it was fully complete. These were teasers at best, and I'm hoping we'll get better with the next book.
2016 Reading Challenges:
• Goodreads Reading Challenge
• BookLikes Reading Challenge
• Reading Assignment Challenge
• Mount TBR Challenge
• COYER Summer Vacation 2016